11 Types of Woodworking Joints

Carpentry Joinery for Strength and Aesthetic Appeal

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Homemade woodworking putty
Homemade woodworking putty
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There are many types of woodworking joints to choose from. Which to use on your current carpentry project? In my opinion, there are three main considerations.

  • Joint strength is the most important. Some things you build will be more subject to wear and tear than others.
  • Do you have the right shop tools and skills? Some joints, like the dovetail joint, can be made with a jig or with hand tools. Skills? You can always learn them.
  • Aesthetics, or the beauty of a particular joint should be considered after you have satisfied the first to points.

Types of Woodworking Joints

  • Pocket Hole Joinery. This is basically a butt joint with pocket hole screws.; it’s very popular for furniture building and repair. Two drilling steps are called for. First, counterbore the pocket hole itself. This is where the screw head is contained. Second, drill a pilot hole so the centerline is the same as the pocket hole. This allows the screw to go through one piece and into the adjoining piece. You use two different sized drill bits for this operation in most cases although step-bits are sometimes used. Kreg is the most popular brand of jig for this joint.

A dovetail joint
A dovetail joint

  • Dovetail Joint. This is a very strong woodworking joint. It’s known for tensile strength (resistance from pulling apart). The woodworking dovetail joint is often used to connect the sides of a drawer to the front. A number of pins are cut to extend from the end of one board and lock with a number of tails cut into the end of another board. These pins tails have a trapezoidal shape and can be cut by hand or with a jig. I use a Porter Cable dovetail jig. Once glued up, your joint is permanent without any mechanical fasteners. See the video below where I show you how to make glue that matches your project wood perfectly.
How to make homemade wood putty
A woodworking butt joint
A woodworking butt joint
  • Butt Joint. The Butt Joint is a simple woodworking joint. It joins two pieces of stock by just butting them together. The butt joint is the simplest joint to make so in that respect it might be the correct choice if you don’t have many tools at your disposal. It is also the weakest wood joint unless you use some form of reinforcement (like dowels, which can add a decorative touch). Otherwise, it depends upon glue alone to hold it together. Because of the orientation of the pieces, you have an end grain to long grain gluing surface. The resulting wood joint is weak, as you might expect because glue alone doesn’t provide much lateral strength.
  • Biscuit Joint. A biscuit joint is nothing more than a reinforced Butt joint. The biscuit is an oval-shaped piece. Typically, a biscuit is made of dried and compressed wood, such as beech. You install it in matching mortises in both pieces of the wood joint. Most people use a biscuit joiner to make the mortises. Accuracy is important for the mortises. You design the biscuit joint to allow flexibility in glue-up.
A double biscuit joint ready for glue-up
A double biscuit joint ready for glue-up
Biscuit joiner for woodworking
Biscuit joiner for woodworking
  • Bridle Joint. This is similar to a mortise and tenon; just cut a tenon on the end of one piece and a mortise into the other piece to receive it. Cut the tenon and the mortise to the full width of the tenon piece. The result is only three gluing surfaces so it is imperative to use a very high-quality woodworking glue. A mechanical fastener or some sort of through-pin is required.
A bridal joint
A bridal joint
Finger joint or box joint
Finger joint or box joint
  • Finger or Box Joint. This one is much like a dovetail joint except that the pins are square and not angled. It is easy to make if you know how to use a table saw or a wood router with a jig. The Porter Cable 4216 12″ Deluxe Dovetail Jig Combination Kit comes with a box joint template. This finger/box joint was invented as a better way to construct simple boxes for produce from field to market. That, my friends, is capitalist ingenuity in action.
A dado joint
A dado joint
  • Dado Joint. OK, funny name but a dado is simply a slot cut into the surface of a piece of wood. When seen in a cross-section, the dado has three distinct sides. Cut a dado perpendicular to the grain of the wood. Technically, it’s different from a groove, which is cut parallel to the grain. This joint is a good choice for bookcase shelves.
A typical lap joint
A typical lap joint
  • Half Lap Joint. With the half lap joint, remove material from each piece such that the finished joint results in the thickness of the thickest piece. But in the majority of half lap joints, both pieces are of the same thickness. Just remove half the thickness of each piece.
A mortise and tenon joint
A mortise and tenon joint
  • Mortise and Tenon Joint. This is a very strong woodworking joint. In the majority of situations its used to join two pieces at a 90° angle. One end of a piece fits into a square hole in the other piece. The end of the first piece is the tenon; the hole in the second piece is the mortise. The tenon is glued in but if you require additional strength, you can also pin it. This is sometimes done for decorative reasons. It is a generally accepted practice to make the tenon about a 1/3 the thickness of the piece. The mortise can be cut by removing as much wood as possible with a plunge router then cleaning up the edges with a chisel.
A rabbet joint
A rabbet joint
  • Rabbet Joint. This a recess that’s cut into the edge of a board. Seen in a cross-section, the rabbet is two-sided and open to the end of the surface. It can be used in the back edge of a cabinet to allow the back to fit flush with the sides. It can also be used to insertion of a glass pane in a picture frame.
Tongue and groove joint
Tongue and groove joint
  • Tongue and Groove Joint. This is another very strong joint because of all the open grain on both pieces of wood. It’s used in many applications. For example, to make wide tabletops out of solid wood. Other uses include wood flooring, parquetry, paneling, etc. You can cut the tongue and groove in a number of ways. An effective way to make this joint is on a router table.

Knowing these 11 types of woodworking joints, you’ll most likely find one or more to fit the needs of your woodworking project.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Woodworking Design: Estimating Lumber

A Material List (Cut List) Tells You the Material You Need; This is How to Buy It

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

A woodworking project plan for a table
A woodworking project plan for a table
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So you’ve conceptualized your next woodworking project and it’s time to plan. Most woodworkers go one of two ways, depending on the situation:

  • You are working from a cut list from a plan that you acquired from a woodworking project book or magazine.
  • You are making a custom project and it makes more sense to ferret out your dimensions as you go along. This was the case with my recessed medicine cabinet project. Since every home and bathroom is framed differently, it was insightful to go long on the instructive photos and short on actual dimensions when posting the plans.

Understanding Lumber Grades

Are you a frugal and common sense woodworker? I hope so; the money you can save on one part of your project (usually the unseen parts) can be used to great effect of the decorative parts. That being said, I abhor particle board in furniture construction. Chinese knock-off furniture, we ain’t.

Knowing lumber grades, and shopping accordingly, will stretch your budget and ensure that you work with the appropriate materials. The lumber grades are defined by the National Hardwood Lumber Association, and have been for over 100 years.

Step one, of course, is choosing the appropriate grade. Step two is checking for bark pockets, splitting, checking, bug damage, warping, and more. Take the time to pick through the stock. Don’t take the mis-step of ordering online, going to your Home Depot or Lowes and just let them load it up for you. COVID-19 pandemic or not, this is a hands-on job.



Understanding Lumber Dimensions

Dimension lumber (2 x 4s, 4 x 4s, etc.) is usually softwood stock. Hardwood lumber is at times milled to dimensional sizes, however it is more commonly encountered in random widths and lengths. It is marketed as roughsawn lumber and in variable surfacing options accompanied by these letter and number codes:

  • S2S: Surfaced on two sides.
  • S3S: Surfaced on two sides with one straight-line ripped.
  • S4S: Surfaced on four sides, meaning that the two wide faces are planed and the two edges have been straight-line ripped.
Lumber thickness guide
Lumber thickness guide


Rough lumber is sold in multiples of 1/4″ thicknesses. This means that 4/4 lumber (read as four-quarter lumber) is one inch thick. You will also encounter 5/4, 6/4, and 8/4 thicknesses. Regardless, with any rough lumber thickness, the rule of thumb is to subtract 1/4″ to determine the “finished” lumber thickness following the surfacing procedure.

Calculating lumber board feet
Calculating lumber board feet

Lumber stock is generally offered by the board foot (BF), which is actually a volume measurement. Think of it this way — one board foot of lumber is 1″ thick, 12″ wide, and 12″ long (essentially 144 square inches of 1″-thick lumber). So a 1″-thick board, 6″ wide and 36″ long would be 1.5 board feet of stock. The formula for determining the BF of a specific piece is: (Thickness x Width x Length)/144; QED. See the formula chart above for examples of calculating BF. Note: 3/4″ surfaced lumber is considered 1″ when calculating board feet because it is originally derived from 4/4 rough-sawn lumber. Confused yet? Don’t be.

Buying Lumber

Calculating just how many board feet of lumber you need for any given project is only your first step. Next, you will need to peruse your material list for pieces that have specific length requirements. As an example, if you have coffee table legs that need to be 14″ long or 90″ long bed rails, you should select stock long enough to make those components. Then an excellent guideline is to add 20 to 30 percent more to your estimate for waste (defects, poor grain pattern, building mistakes, etc.). So if your project requires 10BF, procure 13BF instead. Buying a bit of extra lumber is always a good idea, and experience will prove the truth of it. Keep in mind that at times you will need to resort to your biscuit joiner to save the expense of ordering a special width of lumber.

Following these lumber estimating guidelines for your woodworking projects will save you time, money, and extra trips to the lumber yard or local home improvement store.

Further Reading


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Build a Bay Window Seat with Storage

Take Advantage of That Breakfast Nook or Kitchen Window

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
A bay window seat with storage drawers
A bay window seat with storage drawers
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A bay window seat, with or without cushions, can function as storage space, bookshelves, and a place to relax while enjoying a view of nature and landscaping.

One thing that most homes have in common is a lack of storage units. And oftentimes, the space in front of windows is under-utilized. Why not kill two birds with one stone and install an attractive bay window seat that doubles as storage space?

Designing the Window Seat

It’s a given that the dimensions of the window are not going to change, so that’s a good starting point. The seat shouldn’t be any higher than the bottom of the window; that would be impracticable. The one variable is the bottom strip of window trim or casing. The seat can come up to the bottom of the trim or the trim can be removed to gain a couple more inches in height. Whichever route you take, be sure to winterize this area while you are working there.

On the other hand, if the window bottom is over 18 inches or so off the floor, the window will have no impact on the seat. 18 inches is an acceptable height for a seat, although going a few inches either way to allow for individual tastes is certainly an option. We are not one-size-fits-all, so to speak.

The basic design in most cases is simply a rectangular box, although V-shapes happen as well, with or without doors similar to the ones found on kitchen cabinets. For storage purposes, the two common styles are front access (kitchen cabinet style), and hinged top.

A bay window seat, with a hinged top, under construction
A bay window seat, with a hinged top, under construction

To take the green and sustainable building approach, just use salvaged cabinets if some are available that fit the space. This is a great time to learn about restoring vintage kitchen cabinets.

Hinged Seat Storage or Front Access

A hinged seat can work well for storing items that aren’t used on a regular basis. The issue is that by design, things are stacked on top of others. Think a hope chest or an old-style trunk. Another consideration is that extra material and woodworking hardware will be required. This includes hinges at a minimum.

Front access can be either an open design or closed with cabinet doors. An open design is the best way to go if the space is going to be used as a book case or for a knickknack display area as an alternative to alcove shelving.


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If cabinet doors are installed and the window is in the kitchen, why not use the space for storing dishes, cookware, and small kitchen appliances?

Basic Window Seat Construction

As mentioned above, the structure is basically a box, or some sort of V-shape if that is what you are working with. The most basic way to build it is to construct a basic frame and sheath it with plywood that has a finished side. If the seat is to be attached to the wall, the top rear support is a ledger board screwed to the wood framing studs.

The baseboard should be cut away or removed and a framing member matching the ledger board should be attached to the wall at the floor. The remainder of the unit is to be build off these two framing members. Adequate bracing should be added to the seat area appropriate for the size of the seat. When deciding on the depth, allow a bit extra if the seat will be used for napping. See this article for more information on residential wood stud framing. Finally, add cushions or pillows and relax.

I hope this article on building a bay window seat with storage in your kitchen, breakfast nook, or another room has given you some good ideas for your own project. For more information please check out the articles listed below and check the search box at the top of this page.

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Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.

About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Window Blind DIY Wand Replacement

Why Settle for Replacement Blind Components? Put Your Woodworking Skills to Work.

by Kelly R. Smith

DIY Venetian blinds wand crafting and replacement
DIY Venetian blinds wand crafting and replacement
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Things like window blind wands get a lot of use. Not rough use usually but they are usually made very cheaply and are bound to break at some point. You’ve got two choices. First and easiest is to buy a replacement blind wand. My preferred choice is to make my own. That way I know it is sturdy and I can match the finish to the window casing. So, consider this short tutorial just another woodworking tip.

The wand usually connects to the blind assembly via a small plastic nub with a hole in it. The wand has a hook on the end that fits through the hole. I have worked two possible scenarios.

  • The plastic nub is intact.
  • The plastic nub broke.

Use a Wooden Dowel for the New Wand

Dowels are available in all hardware stores as far as I know. At Home Depot they are available in pine and oak, in various diameters. I usually go for the pine; it is cheaper and I’m going to stain it anyway. These dowels are smooth finished so all you need to do is cut it to your desired length and sand the ends and smooth out the sharp end edges.

To work on the dowel, I use a Bessey drill press vise with a rag wrapped around the dowel so as not to mar it. The crosshairs on the end of the dowel are for drilling the connection hole.

Dowel in the Bessey drill press vise
Dowel in the Bessey drill press vise


Finishing and Attaching the Connector

When the plastic nub is intact, you just need a cup hook or simply make a hook out of wire (like a metal coat hanger) using needle-nosed pliers. If the plastic nub is broken off you will need to drill a hole in the end of the dowel and glue it into the nub. I used Locktite GO 2 Repair Xtreme. While the glue is setting up I kept everything together with a piece of electrical tape. This is why I didn’t use polyurethane Gorilla Grip glue; the foaming, expansive curing action would push things apart. Regular wood joinery techniques don’t really apply here.

Use the finish of your choice. Here I used Minwax Penetrating Stain. Later, after a couple of days I’ll apply a high-quality furniture wax.

Finishing with Minwax Penetrating Stain
Finishing with Minwax Penetrating Stain


Blinds wand with a hook connector
Blinds wand with a hook connector

That’s about all there is a window blind DIY wand replacement. It doesn’t even have to be broken. It is a good way to give your window dressing a custom look on a budget and a little spare time.

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Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.

About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Scroll Saw vs Band Saw

What’s the difference?

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
A Ryobi 16 in. scroll saw.
A Ryobi 16 in. scroll saw
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We can’t have too many power tools in the shop. The extent of our acquisitions can be guided by 3 principles — budget, storage space, and frequency of use. There are exceptions. For example, you may not use your biscuit joiner often, but when you need it, nothing else will do. Some tools are similar enough that they can have almost overlapping functionality, when some ingenuity and/or woodworking jigs are used. You might assume that the scroll saw vs band debate saw falls into this camp. You would be partly correct but there are some important differences.

Benefits of a Scroll Saw

We’ll look at the scroll saw first. It has certain benefits for certain projects.

  • It can make internal cuts. All you have to do is drill an entry hole in your work piece, insert the blade, and cut away. Then you can clean up the internal edges with the sanding implement of your choice.
  • It is a better choice for small detailed work and parquetry and inlay work, as it cuts tighter than a band saw.
  • It can be used to cut the cheeks of a dovetail joint and to divide a wide tenon into two smaller ones.
  • It can make angled cuts up to 45 degrees.
  • They are available in various throat sizes. The throat size when it comes to the scroll saw is the distance between the blade and the rear part of the saw. A larger table surface handles larger projects.

Benefits of a Band Saw

A Ryobi tabletop band saw
A Ryobi tabletop band saw
  • Like the scroll saw, it can make angled cuts up to 45 degrees.
  • It can cut much thicker stock than a scroll saw.
  • It’s more powerful than a scroll saw. Since the table is open on both ends, throat size is not so much of a consideration, although table size still is.
  • Using the right band saw blades you can even cut metal, but I never have so I offer no opinion on this point.

The Million Dollar Question: Should You Invest in a Scroll saw or a Band Saw?

In the spirit of full transparency, I own both. Why? Because it’s easier to use the right saw for the job. But if you are limited to one or the other, consider which will better fit your woodworking needs. Most of the tasks suited to a band saw can also be done on your table saw. Another consideration is your shop configuration. I have 2 large work benches, one stationary and one wheeled so I use a lot of bench-top tools and just swap them out as needed. Whichever saw/s you purchase, look for a reliable brand name and a heavy base.

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Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.

About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

My Workshop Tape Storage Hack

by Kelly R. Smith


Workshop tape storage rack
Workshop tape storage rack
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After Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent flood, I, like everybody else in my subdivision, faced rebuilding. As far as my wood shop goes, it was a blessing and a curse. I lost a lot of tools but, having erred on the side of caution, we had full flood insurance. As I re-built the shop I resolved to be more organized right from scratch.

It’s an ongoing process, isn’t it? Just last week I needed some duct tape so I began my search. I usually keep tape in it’s category area, e.g. electrical tape in the electrical drawer, drywall tape with the tape and float area, painter’s blue tape with the painting stuff.



But what about duct tape? I’m a proud owner of several types of tin snips but I certainly don’t have a “duct” area. I spent about 20 years as an acoustical ceiling installer so I worked with a lot of duct men but didn’t mess with it myself. As clumsy as I am, I’m not safe around sheet metal. So, I spent more time looking for that elusive roll than I did actually using it. Enough is enough. So I built that tape rack you see in the picture above. To build one of your own you will need:

  • 1 piece of 1″ X 4″ about 20″ long. Shorter won’t do or you won’t hit 2 studs when you install it.
  • 2 17″ lengths of 3/4″ dowel.
  • 2 long drywall screws (2″, coarse threads).
  • Glue.
  • Finish of your choice; I used stain; the board is pine but the dowels are oak and the results don’t have to be pretty but they should match in color. As a general rule I don’t stain oak, but…
  • 3/4″ hole saw.
  • Drill press or hand-held drill.
  • Cordless drill with a #2 Phillips screw tip.
  • Flush-cut saw. I love Japanese hand tools, don’t you?
  • Belt sander or sanding block.

Assembly

  1. Drill your holes. It doesn’t show very well in the picture above but I placed a chunk of scrap wood on one side of my drill press table so the holes would be at an angle, but this is optional.
  2. Glue the dowels into the holes. Since the holes are at an angle, a portion will be sticking out of the back.
  3. Let the glue dry overnight.
  4. Use a flush-cut saw to cut off the excess dowel, then clean it up with your belt sander.
  5. Pre-drill your screw holes on 16″ centers. I also hit the hole openings with a bigger drill bit for about 3/16″ so the screw heads end up flush with the surface of the wood.
  6. Add the finish of your choice and let it dry.
  7. Locate your studs and install.

If you’re wondering about that wall I installed this tape rack on, it is the exterior of our food pantry that I build by “stealing” a bit of garage space. It never ceases to amaze me why the builders never included enough kitchen storage space. Want to build your own? Here are step-by-step food pantry plans. It’s an easy DIY project. Who doesn’t want more convenience and home equity?

DIY walk-in kitchen pantry
DIY walk-in kitchen pantry

That’s all there is my workshop tape storage hack. It’s just one more storage and shop organization issue solved. The expense is minimal and you might even have most of the materials on hand already.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Fall is Here; Clean up Your Wood Shop or Work Area

by Kelly R. Smith

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My router table in my messy shop
My router table in my messy shop

Generally speaking, I’m diligent about putting my tools where they go when I’m done with them. As far as keeping the wood shop spic n’ span, not so much. I’m guessing that we’re all like that to some extent. I do tackle it monthly. Fall and spring are the times that I really clean my wood shop. I put my big wet/dry vac through its paces.

Throw Out What You Won’t Use

As DIY’ers, we are confirmed pack rats. There’s a bin or container for everything, be it a washer, bolt, screw, or nail. I’m guilty of not tossing anything in the trash bin. But if there’s a scrap of hardwood, oak or walnut perhaps, that has been gathering dust for a couple of years, the fireplace might be a fitting destination. Then again, I might do a small project or some inlay work soon…

Start with Your Work Bench

It’s a fact; you can’t work on something if there’s nowhere to do it! My work bench gets piled up with my stuff as well as the stuff SHMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) and the daughter stack up there. These are low-hanging fruits just waiting to be picked in the re-organization process.

Shuffle this stuff to storage bins and other storage spaces as much as possible. I like those little plastic cabinets. They are great for organizing all those weird tools. I’ve got one drawer for screwdrivers, another for chisels, etc. (I need one for Freudian slips!) And after all, how many times do you get an opportunity to use that Whitney Punch?

And the glass-cutter? And the roller tool for setting the screen splines? And those tap and dies that gather dust until the one day that they’ll save you yet another trip to the hardware store.

Power Tools Need Their Space

I have one overhead shelf for power tools that come with their hard plastic cases like drills, biscuit joiners, routers, etc. Usually, I don’t always repack when I’m done; I keep them for when I go mobile.

All my benchtop tools — drill press, belt sander, and the like, spend active hours on top of the bench and sleeping hours inside the body of the bench). Quick change-out is the key here. My router table, table saw, and lathe all have dedicated stands.

Stowing Your Sandpaper

You obviously don’t want your different grades of sandpaper scattered willy-nilly all over God’s creation. Some woodworkers have nice cabinets with drawers to stow different grit sandpapers, and I mean to do it myself someday. In the meantime, I’ve got file folders tacked up (like those hanging file folders) to hold the different grit sheets.

Wood Storage

This can be the most problematic issue of any woodworker on limited real estate. Where to store all that nice hardwood stock? I didn’t used to have that enviable problem but when my master carpenter Father in Law went to that great work shop in the sky, I found myself with a nice treasure trove of exotic wood.

So Pity me. Right. Anyhow, I’m figuring out a method of storing it so that I can free up floor space for staging larger projects like book shelves. Wish me well. These are some of my experiences with cleaning up your wood shop or work area. When you find yourself spending more time to find tools than work with them, it’s time for a call to action.



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Home Office Build-Out Tips

by Kelly R. Smith

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A home office
A home office

Recent estimates report that 33% of Americans are self-employed in some capacity. Now, the report didn’t break it down into full-time or part-time details, but it means one thing for certain — lots of home offices! You might need one for the first time because of being locked down thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you’re remodeling a bedroom into your office, or remodeling your current one, you can use these home office refurbishment tips.

Office Interior Lighting

All interior lighting is not the same. In the office, in particular, it falls into three distinct categories: general, task, and accent lighting. How much of each you use depends on your needs. General lighting is often implemented with overhead fluorescent fixtures. Most home offices just use task lighting.

Task lighting is used to focus on your work area to avoid eye strain. Good choices here are undercabinet fixtures, or track, monorail, or Y lighting systems with halogen or LED bulbs. Accent lighting usually illuminates artwork. This is taken care of with ceiling-mounted fixtures.

Buy Ergonomic Furniture

This is important for your comfort and long-term health. The two most critical pieces are an ergonomic office chair and computer desk. Adjustable standing desks are getting to be more popular. Before shopping, know what you need. Draw a detailed plan noting where things should be situated. Size is important; be sure everything will fit into your space.

Although it might be tempting to do so, I wouldn’t recommend placing the fax, copier, and printer where you can just reach over to make a quick paper grab. Why? Because you need to get out of your chair now and then to get the blood flowing! My Garmin 235 GPS watch actually lets me know when I’ve had too much butt-time.

Flooring – Choose Wisely

You’ve got many choices when it comes to flooring. Carpet is the best choice for sound control and it is forgiving; you’ll be spending a lot of time on your feet. The downside is that occasionally you’ll have to hire carpet cleaners or rent a machine at the store. If you’ve got a lot of carpet in your home, go ahead and buy a carpet cleaning machine. It will quickly pay for itself. Who knows how nasty those grocery store ones are.

Are you after a a more contemporary look? You might consider hardwood or laminate flooring. When it comes to sprucing up your home office, consider that you’ll be spending more time in there than you would a conventional office (Netflix). Plan accordingly.

Upgrade Your Office walls

Your office walls are important. You should choose a color that you like, of course, but it should also be a color that is soothing enough to allow you to focus on your work. Small office? Here are some paint illusions to make the space seem larger.

I hope these home office build-out tips have inspired you and given you some food for thought. Always check the latest IRS guidelines to maximize your deductions. It’s like getting a pay raise! Please participate in the poll on the right-hand sidebar of this article. Thanks!



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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Biscuit Joiner; Why You Need One for Woodworking

by Kelly R. Smith

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A Ryobi biscuit joiner on a router table
A Ryobi biscuit joiner on a router table

Granted that the biscuit joiner is not a power tool that you use everyday on your woodworking projects. It falls into the category of go-to tools when nothing else will do the job so well. On projects that require mating planks, this tool is invaluable. On some projects, just gluing them up and clamping them is sufficient but on others a stronger bond is required. And why not err on the side of caution? The right tool is just as important as adequate shop lighting.

For years I relied on dowels to do the job. That worked, but getting that precision can be difficult. Drilling the holes at the exact angle and in the exact location can be dicey, especially when using a hand-held drill rather than your drill press. This is where the biscuit joiner comes into its own.

Using Your Biscuit Joiner

For the sake of argument, let us assume that we are joining several boards to make up a table top.

  • Biscuits can “telegraph.” This means that as the glue dries, it can warp the surface plank wood down towards the biscuit. To avoid this minor imperfection in the end product (you’re the only one who will notice, but still), don’t cut your biscuit slot in the exact center of the planks, rather, a bit lower towards the bottom of the finished product.
  • Biscuits don’t add a lot of strength. So the argument goes. Some carpenters use biscuits simply to assure themselves that the planks will stay aligned as the glue dries. I’m from the other camp that believes that they do add a lot of strength, especially when the end product comes under stress because the length of the biscuit distributes the load better than a cylindrical dowel..
  • You can add biscuits for additional strength after the glue-up on 45 degree corners. Use your joiner as a plunge tool after the glue has dried. For example, you might do this on the underside of a picture frame after you remove your 45 degree clamps or spring clamps. Plunge the slot, glue-up and add the biscuit, and use your belt sander to level it up later.
  • Bring the motor up to full-speed before engaging the joiner. Easy, cowboy.

So, do you really need a biscuit joiner for your woodworking projects? The short answer is “no,” but the long answer is, “yes, because it will make your life so much better and your range of carpentry skills broader.”

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Top 10 Table Saw Safety Tips

by Kelly R. Smith

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Craftsman woodworking table saw
Craftsman woodworking table saw

This article was updated on 10/14/20.

By its very nature, woodworking is a dangerous hobby and profession. There are 720,000 injuries each year associated with woodworking projects and about 42% of these occur on the table saw. No surprise here; almost every project needs stock ripped or crosscut. How can we do better? Let’s look at these top 10 table saw safety tips.

  • Using your blade guard. Yes, they come from the factory installed and recommended but who actually uses them? Ahem, yeah, I thought so. I use a push stick or another woodworking jig to get the job done. Should I use the guard? Yeah, but usually… no. Still, I recommend it.
  • Table saw blade selection. It is tempting to use the same table saw blade for every job, but should you? No. You need a separate blade for cross-cutting and one for ripping Why? A crosscut blade makes the rip cut much more difficult. It can burn and bind.
  • Use a zero-clearance insert. Yes, there are two schools of thought on this one. Safety says a supported piece is a safer piece.
  • Woodworking dust collection. If your table saw offers a port, use it. You will guard your health, keep your wood shop clean, and lower fire risks. Wood dust not only irritates your throat and nose, but some species can be poisonous. Keeping a clean and clutter-free work area is important.
  • Use your PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). Yeah this stuff is front and center because of the Covidid-19 Pandemic but truth be told, it was always a big deal. Use safety glasses and ear protection. Gloves? Personal decision.
  • Keep your hands out of harm’s way. Use push sticks, push blocks and other safety devices to help guide and control work pieces.
  • Don’t stand directly in front of or in back of the blade. Always stand to one side or the other. Even with the guard in place, the odd chunk of wood might kick back.
  • Make adjustments before powering up. Make all adjustments with your blade stopped, with the single exception of changing the speed. Never try to change the configuration of the table or the power plant before the machine has stopped.
  • Keep your hands safe. Do not reach under the table to make adjustments, remove scrap, or make adjustments while the blade is turning.
  • Use your accessories. Make use of your miter gauge or rip fence to guide your work. Free-hand cuts are very dangerous, inaccurate and not recommended. For larger pieces, such as plywood, use table saw extensions or rollers. Ideally, you should have a helper, but realistically that’s not always going to happen.

Keep these 10 table saw safety tips in mind each and every time you enter your shop. It is easy to become complacent with this and other tools. None of us came with spare body parts.



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.